Sales Managers – Are you watching the scoreboard or watching the game?

Imagine being a basketball coach with your team down by four points at halftime. Your assistant hands you a sheet showing that your team's shooting percentage is a dismal 35%, far below your season average. You also notice a couple of players in foul trouble. What's your game plan? A pep talk might offer a slight boost, but the reality is that watching the scoreboard and crunching numbers won't provide enough information to make informed decisions. You need to watch the game, understand player actions, shot selection, and defensive strategies, then offer feedback and make necessary adjustments.

Believe it or not, a similar scenario plays out in sales management all too often. Sales leaders frequently focus on sales numbers (the scoreboard) and metrics like calls, meetings, and proposal activity (shooting percentage). They may even conduct one-on-one coaching sessions (halftime pep-talks).

They often fall short because they don't watch their sales reps in action (the game). Their coaching advice, such as "Increase your activity level" or "Improve your demo-to-deal conversion," merely echoes what salespeople can already see on their own scorecards.

Let me be clear, tracking essential metrics like activity rates, conversion rates, and deal sizes is indeed crucial for effective sales management. These metrics act as diagnostic tools that help you understand how to best support your team members. For instance, if Billy's scorecard displays a low closing rate, that's just the starting point. To truly grasp the situation, you need to be there to see Billy's actual performance. Is he reaching the decision-makers effectively? Is he asking the right questions at the start? Is he building up the value of the solution convincingly? You can't get these vital insights solely from numbers or CRM data. Asking Billy for self-assessment might not provide the whole story because salespeople often struggle to self-report accurately. You have to be there, in the "game." There is nothing more powerful (and sometimes shocking) than watching one of your salespeople in action.

Through your active involvement, you'll witness your salespeople accomplishing remarkable feats that can serve as learning experiences, and you may find yourself scratching your head when you see a salesperson fumble a crucial call. In either case, you can take effective action. It's all about being in the game, not just watching the scoreboard.

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